Interview: Kid Koala

Kid Koala - Photo by Noom Srisunakorn

Kid Koala - Photo by Noom Srisunakorn

Eric San first began making a name for himself 15 years ago as Kid Koala, an artist who simply did things differently than his contemporaries. Although known primarily as a DJ, San is also a musician and an illustrator, two skills which he regularly combines together, as in the instance of his most recent work of art.

Although Kid Koala performed a DJ set in Berlin over the weekend, San’s primary focus has been his newest work; just a few months ago, his second graphic novel, “Space Cadet,” was released in the form of a book based on a series of etchboard drawings and an accompanying soundtrack. Admittedly, it has been nearly a decade since the release of his first graphic novel, 2003’s “Nufonia Must Fall,” but the project had been in the works for almost as long as the period between the two.

“I started writing the story and drawing the initial storyboards eight years ago. I would work on it whenever I had some time. It is quite a time-consuming drawing technique, but also very meditative and relaxing,” San said of the process. “Some pages would take up to 50 hours to finish, and completing those alone were little victories along the way. I remember working on page 5 or 6 and thinking I couldn’t even comprehend how long this book will take to finish.”

The story itself is based on the idea of an astronaut girl floating through space, something which was inspired by and written for San’s daughter, Maple.

“I wrote the ‘Space Cadet’ tracks right after my daughter was born,” he explained. “In essence they are a collection of piano and turntable lullabies for her. The music is very quiet and I recorded most of it on headphones because I wouldn’t want to wake her when she was sleeping.”

Because San’s use of headphones was so essential in the making of the music, it makes perfect sense that he incorporates them into the live performance of the album as well.

“My wife designed these inflatable space pods that seat about 50 people each [and] Sennheiser has sponsored the shows and everyone is given a pair of headphones to hear the concert,” San shared, elaborating on the reason why he felt the experience necessary. “I was a little bored of going to concerts where everyone in the audience had to stand for three hours [and] I thought it would be fun to do a show where everyone in the audience was comfortable and lying around on the ground.”

Because of all the details involved in the “Space Cadet” setup, however, San and his team have not been doing a full-fledged tour, instead preferring to play in a handful of cities over a lengthened period of time.

“Really, ‘Space Cadet’ is a very cozy and calm concert experience in a pop-up planetarium with turntables and pianos,” San said. “What I like about it is that it’s a show that can speak to a wide age group. People have been [bringing] their kids and grandparents to the show and it works. I think we will bring the tour to Berlin next year.”

In the meantime, he admitted he’s been approached by Canadian museums and galleries interested in creating long-term installations and interactive exhibits.

And although being a musician isn’t always easy, San seems to have found the best way to make a viable career out of a sometimes uncertain profession. Particularly, due to the uniqueness of his creations, he has found a niche with fans who support him, regardless of what his projects are.

“When the audience is open and the energy is right, there’s nothing that can beat that,” he said. “At the end of it all, it’s about spending time with people and sharing something. I feel quite lucky that the audience who comes to see me perform are all up for some sort of surprising audio adventure. They are primarily fun loving people who have a slight quiet or romantic side.”

As for what the future holds for him, San said while Emiliana Torrini and Karen O. top the list of people he’d love to do a record with, currently he is collaborating with friends to make a turntable puppet musical about zombies and ramen noodles.

“Everyday is a brand new experience,” he said, speaking to the endless possibilites of his job. It’s been non-stop possibilities and fun times. I still feel like a kid in that respect.”

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